Social Work News

Ferguson-Florissant School District

May 2021 Newsletter

A Healthy Dose of Self-Esteem

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is a topic that comes up a lot when we are talking about teenage girls in particular, but it is really something that impacts each and every one of us. Self-esteem is how we view ourselves, our abilities, and our value. The way we see ourselves impacts every aspect of our lives--right down to what we decide to eat for breakfast in the morning, so it is very important that we have a good understanding of our own self-esteem.

Self-esteem is formed based entirely on an individual’s own opinions, and it exists on a continuum ranging from very low to very high. Instead of focusing on high self-esteem or low self-esteem, I encourage you to aim for healthy self-esteem, which is actually a balance between the two and looks different for everyone.

What impacts a person’s self-esteem?

Self-esteem begins to develop early in life and is shaped by life circumstances and experiences. Circumstances might include age, ability status, socioeconomic status, physical health, physical appearance, and genetics. Experiences might include physical or emotional abuse, bullying, racism, discrimination, job loss, separation or divorce, and other stressors. Many of these are things over which we have no control, but that does not mean that we are stuck. No matter what you have experienced, please remember that you have the right to feel good about who you are, and you can still have healthy self-esteem regardless of your circumstances.

What does a person’s self-esteem impact?

Your self-esteem has an impact on virtually every aspect of your life, because it is very much connected to motivation and decision-making. A person whose motivation and decision-making are impacted by a lack of confidence is less likely to experience academic and professional success and is more likely to struggle with expressing their own needs in social relationships. A person whose motivation and decision-making are impacted by overconfidence is less likely to engage in self-improvement activities and is more likely to push people away.

Take inventory of your own self-esteem.

There are a number of indicators that a person has healthy self-esteem. It may be helpful for you to read through the following list and consider which statements are true for you.

Indicators of healthy self-esteem:

  • You acknowledge and accept your strengths and weaknesses

  • You are able to say ‘no’ and set boundaries

  • You understand your needs and opinions and are able to express them

  • You believe you are equal to everyone else--not superior and not inferior

  • You avoid dwelling on mistakes and negative experiences

  • You generally feel liked and accepted and are able to maintain healthy relationships

  • You are able to accept both positive and negative feedback

  • You acknowledge the possibility of failure and setbacks without fear

  • You have realistic and appropriate expectations of yourself and your abilities

  • You are assertive without being pushy

  • You take the time you need for yourself when you need it

  • You value yourself as a person and believe you are deserving of happiness

  • You are able to try new or difficult things

  • You have a positive outlook on life

These don’t all have to be true for you all of the time in order for you to consider your self-esteem to be healthy. Self-esteem is a continuum, and we move along that continuum frequently. However, if you read through the list and find yourself being critical of yourself for not being able to identify with more of the items, that might be an indication that your self-esteem could use a boost.

Next Steps: What Can I Do to Improve My Self-Esteem?

Identify and challenge the source. Identify your triggers--the conditions or situations that have a negative impact on your self-esteem. Pay attention to your thoughts and beliefs about those triggers, and challenge the ones that are negative or inaccurate so that you can replace them with accurate and constructive thoughts and beliefs. Talk, art, and other therapies along with journaling can help in this process. NOTE: If the circumstances you identify here are traumatic, it might also be helpful to explore the resources that are available to help you deal with them. Our page on the district website is a good place to start.

Choose your company. Be intentional about surrounding yourself with people who are supportive, make you happy, and treat you well. People who do not meet these criteria will trigger your negative thinking. People who do meet these criteria will help you feel good about yourself.

Remember you are human. Nobody is perfect, and that includes you. Everybody makes mistakes, and that includes you. In fact, you have to make mistakes in order to continue to learn and grow. So instead of beating yourself up when you fall short of perfection (which you will), accept your best and keep moving forward.

Choose your focus. Focus on yourself instead of constantly comparing yourself to others. Focus on what is going well instead of fixating on the problems. Focus on the things that you can change instead of getting hung up on all of the things that are outside of your control. Focus on (and celebrate) your achievements--no matter how large or small--instead of focusing on your failures.

Be kind to yourself. The things you say to yourself have a big impact on how you feel about yourself, so talk to yourself like you are your own best friend. Become aware of and challenge your negative thoughts about yourself. Practice positive self-talk. Practice self-compassion, and allow yourself to experience feelings. Accept and savor compliments, and avoid giving too much attention to unhelpful negative comments. Take care of yourself by being intentional about what you eat, what you drink, and when/how you sleep. Spend some time getting to know yourself and all of the things that are wonderful about you.

Be kind to others. Be a good friend, a good community member, and a good citizen of the world. Giving is one of the very best ways to build self-esteem. Find something that you would enjoy volunteering to do or something that you can do to make a difference in your community--or even just your own home.

Do something. Exercise. Pick up a new hobby. Or set aside time to work on a project you’ve been meaning to finish. We feel good when we are active, when we are doing things we enjoy, when we are learning something new, and when we are achieving our goals. Set some tangible goals for yourself, and figure out what steps you need to take to achieve them. And remember--you don’t have to be good at something in order to enjoy it!

Some people find these things helpful, but keep in mind that different strategies work for different people at different times. If you want to make a healthy change to your level of self-esteem, start with the strategies that sound most comfortable for you, and do not be afraid to make a change if something is not working.

NOTE: If you experience prolonged feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, self-blame, self-hatred, or excessive worry, this may be a sign of a deeper mental health concern that requires attention. Please consult with your primary care doctor or a mental health provider for further guidance.

Photo Month Challenge

This month, in honor of Photo Month, we are issuing you a challenge. Take a picture of something that makes you feel good about yourself, and put it somewhere that you will see it multiple times every day. You could print it out and put it on the mirror in the bathroom, on the refrigerator door, or on the entertainment center. You could make it the background on your computer, tablet, or phone. Put it somewhere that makes sense for you, and remember how amazing you are every time you look at it.

Kate Obermeier

Kate works with all of the district's Pre-K - 2nd grade buildings.

Debbie Bodden

Debbie works with all of the district's 3rd - 5th grade buildings and 6th grade centers.

Lynda Partee

Lynda works with all of the district's middle and high schools.

Timothy Merritt

Tim works with students attending at the Restoration Center.

Bree Moore

Bree works with students attending at the Restoration Center.

Whitney Johnson

Whitney works with families that are enrolled or enrolling in the district under the McKinney-Vento Act.

Yolanda Rodgers-Garvin

Yolanda works with families that are enrolled or enrolling in the district under the McKinney-Vento Act and students who are currently in foster care.

Mara McAllister

Mara works with students enrolled in Early Childhood Special Education.